About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
11 is the famous "faith chapter" that every preacher preaches on
sooner or later in his ministry. The
chapter outlines many Old Testament people who lived their lives by
trusting God, as we should be doing today.
chapter begins with this verse. "Now
faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not
see." As I often say,
faith in its simplest definition means to trust, as in to trust our lives
with Jesus. Therefore the
author of this letter is telling his readers that true trust in Jesus is
being sure of what we hope for and certain about those things that canít
be been seen, or, we do not have.
faith is a present reality. We
are trusting Jesus for something that He has promised us in the future.
Faith is related to hope. We can hope for something to come about
in the future, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Hope is actually a New Testament virtue we should possess.
Faith is a strong hope. Faith
is being sure that what you are hoping for will come about.
This faith is still futuristic.
Faith is still being sure of something that has not yet come true
for us. Part of the idea this
verse presents us with is that we do not get all of what God has promised
the day we become a Christian. Salvation
is a process that ends when Jesus transforms our earthly body into a
heavenly body like His own.
is a godly virtue, as I have said. It
is a certain expectation that what God has promised will some day be
realized. Biblical hope is not
like worldly hope where people hope to win the lottery.
Biblical hope is based on the reliability of God.
of the Ultra or Hyper Faith persuasion suggest to us that the faith seen
here means that we are to act as if what we are hoping for has already
happened. This is not
Biblical. This verse
says nothing like that. This
verse speaks of faith being connected to hope, and that hope is
futuristic. It speaks of
believing in Jesus even though we do not have what we are believing Him
for. We should not make this
verse say something it does not say as those of the Hyper Faith teaching
is another thing to consider when it comes to Biblical faith, especially
as it applies to the book of Hebrews and this verse.
For the Jews, faith did mean trust, but beyond that it meant a life
of faithfulness. It's not a
one time trust in God. It's a
daily trust in God that makes us faithful to Him.
That is very important when thinking of Biblical faith.
often hear people say "I need more faith," as if faith is
something that you can reach out and get more of.
When faith is expressed this way, it paints the picture that faith
is reaching out, pushing the envelope so to speak, and aggressively
attempting to believe. Faith
is not that. Faith is not
aggressive in nature. I view
faith as a surrendering of ones self to God. I see faith as simply
trusting, relaxing, or resting, because you are sure of your trust in God.
When we say that we need more faith, as if faith can be gotten, I
believe we have the wrong concept of faith.
A better way of saying this would be, "I need to trust Jesus
more," or, "I need to sit back and relax and allow Jesus to have
His way with me." This is
why I say faith is more of surrender to Jesus than aggressive grasping.
The only aggressive aspect of faith would be the outworking of it,
that is, stepping out and doing Godís will.
I am not suggesting that we should be passive in our lifestyle,
because faith has a productive side to it.
True faith results in actions, yet, the actions are a result of
trust, not aggressive attempts to believe, and especially not mental
trickery that makes you think you have something you don't have, as Hyper
Faith teaches. When we have
faith, we relax in Jesus as we do His will.
the writer uses the words, "certain of what we do not see," he
could be speaking of one of two things.
He could be saying that we are certain of the things in the future
that we donít see, or, he could be saying that we are certain of that
unseen world around us in which Jesus is Lord.
Christian faith is in trust in God for that which we can't see.
Jesus commended Thomas and the rest of the disciples because they
believed, but then He said that blessed are those who believe yet have not
seen (John 20:29).
I believe Jesus was speaking of those who would believe after He
left this world. That's you
and I who have handed our lives over to Jesus in a trusting relationship.
verse 2 the writer says that "this is what the ancients were
commended for." By this
he means that many men and women in Old Testament days were spoken well of
because of their trust in God, even though for many, they did not see the
results of their trust. Not
all received what was being trusted for in theirs life.
Therefore, most of the remaining verses in this chapter are
examples of these men and women of faith, who trusted God for what He had
promised them but never received the promise in their lifetime.
first example the writer uses concerns God Himself in the process of
creation. Verse 3 says that we
trust God that all things were made by His command.
The writer also says that the things that we can see that God made
were not made from other visible things.
God merely spoke everything into existence.
God made something out of nothing.
He did not make something out of something.
As far as I am concerned this dispels the theory of evolution as
seen in the Big Bang Theory. God
spoke all things in the universe into existence.
All things did not evolve after a big explosion.
first man of faith spoken of is in verse 4.
It is Abel. He trusted
God in his heart, and that's why he is seen as a man of faith.
Some say God accepted his sacrifice because it was an animal
sacrifice, and Cain's wasn't. I
don't believe, at least at the moment, that is really the issue.
If you read the Genesis account carefully, you will see that God's
acceptance of Abel was strictly a matter of the heart.
He had faith in his heart and Cain didn't.
it comes to sacrifices early in the book of Genesis, we know little about
them. There is actually no
record of God telling people to give a sacrifice.
That does not mean He never told people to offer sacrifices.
It just means that we don't know exactly why people offered
sacrifices. We do know that a
few chapters later on God told Abram to offer his one and only son as a
sacrifice. Of course, we know
that in the end, God intervened and provided a lamb for a sacrifice.
So, by this time in human history, sacrifices as they pertained to
God were being offered. Again,
we just aren't sure of the origin of these sacrifices.
We have a hint when God, in Genesis 3 killed an animal in order to
cover Adam and Eve's nakedness, but, this was God killing an animal, not
author tells us that Abel speaks to us today, even though he is dead.
The way in which Abel speaks to us is through the Bible.
All that is written about him, and that includes here in Hebrews,
in one sense of the word causes him and his life of faith to speak to us,
as it has been as long as people have been reading the Bible.
verse 5 it says that Enoch, as he was taken up into Heaven, trusted God in
the process. This man
according to the Old Testament account did not experience death.
Some people say that he did not die, why others say that his death
is just not recorded. The
Genesis account also tells us that Enoch walked with God.
Walking with God implies having a trusting and faithful
relationship with God. Enoch
trusted God. He was so
faithful to God and God just took Him to heaven without going through the
process of death. Enoch must
have been a righteous man even though little is known about him.
6 is often quoted in faith sermons. It
says, "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone
who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who
earnestly seek Him." Simply
put, we first must believe in Godís existence and then believe that He
will reward us when we trust in Jesus, or, that He will give us what He
has promised us. Once again,
our trust is in some future reward. This
is a future reward and therefore there is no hint of us having to act as
if we have already received the reward. Faith
is daily trusting Jesus for our lives, for things in the moment, or for
things in the future. If the
future things we trust Him for have not yet come about, we still trust in
the word "earnestly" here in verse 6.
To me, this suggests an ongoing trust, even though we have not yet
received what we are trusting God for.
as seen in verse 7 built the ark in "holy fear" because of his
trust in God. Note the words
"holy fear." This
gives me the picture that while Noah was building the ark in front of all
to see, he fearfully trusted God as he poured his life into this project.
It would not surprise me to know that even though Noah trusted God,
at times he had some doubts, especially in the face of those who were
watching him build a boat for no apparent reason.
Noah's trust in what God told him must have been strong to survive
all of the ridicule he must have received by those watching him building a
boat. Remember, it had never
rained before. People didn't
know what rain was. They had
no clue what a flood was. For
them, this was some stupid thing that Noah was doing.
Noah trusted God in the midst of a life of ridicule.
7 says that "by faith Noah condemned the world."
This might well mean that his very act of obedience of building
this massive boat that people ridiculed was in fact an act of judgment
that was realized when the rains and the flood came.
word "fear" that is used in verse 7 and elsewhere in the Bible
does not simply mean reverence. It
means to be afraid. In one
real sense of the word, we need to be afraid of God.
For the most part, most of us aren't afraid of God.
Our lives prove that. On
the other hand, and to balance this, the one we fear is the one we love.
The one we run from in fear is the one we run to because of His
loving wide open arms.
8 tells us that Abraham trusted God when he was told to move his family to
a new location. Abraham
believed God despite all of the uncertainties of this move.
He trusted that God was acting in His best interest with this
request. Really, God was
acting in His own best interested that He wanted Abraham to participate
in. When God tells us to do
something, we can trust Him that He will provide all we need to do what He
wants us to do. If, however,
we do something that He has not told us to day, we can't logically or
Biblically trust Him to give us something we need to accomplish our own
verse 9 and 10 we see that Abraham still had faith once he relocated in
the land that God had promised him, but, even though he was in the land,
the author said that he lived as a stranger because he was seeking a city
that was built by God and not by man.
This tells me that the Promised Land is in fact prophetic of a
future promised land that is not of this world, not made by humans, but by
verse 11 we see that Abraham also trusted God and believed Him when he was
told that he would have a son, even though Abraham was very old and his
wife Sarah was way passed child bearing years.
This came about as God had promised.
The fulfillment of this promise has great significance for the
salvation of man. As we
all know, this promise was fulfilled because of a miracle.
is important to know that even though this chapter calls Abraham a man of
faith, he had his struggles, as all of these people of faith would have
had. In fact, by the request
of Sarah his wife, he had a son through Sarah's young slave girl.
This was an act of unbelief on the part of Abraham.
It appears that his faith in God's promise began to waver and
therefore he attempted to solve the problem on his own.
aside Abraham's act of disobedience did not nullify the promise of God.
As a matter of fact, if God has promised something, man's failures
can never nullify what God has promised.
The author says that Abraham had many descendents as God promised.
13 is extremely important, especially in light of the Ultra Faith Movement
that claims we should have pretty much everything right now.
Those who embrace Hyper Faith believe that we can speak things into
existence as God Himself did at creation, and even though we may not
visibly see the results, we should live and act as though the results have
come true. Thus, if you are
sick, claim that you are already better, and go out and live as if you are
already better even though in reality you are still sick.
This teaching states that prosperity and healing are for all of us
today and if we aren't prosperous and in good health then we have a lack
of faith in God. If you have
read any of my literature, you will know that I do not believe in this
teaching. I believe it's one
of the most harmful doctrines in the western world church today.
13 says, "all these people were still living by faith when they
died." These people did
not get what they believed for, yet they did not loose their trust in God.
The writer goes on to say, "they did not receive the things
promisedÖ" These people
had great faith. They trusted
God and God was pleased, but they did not receive the things God promised
them. It was not in His
timing. Let me repeat it
again. They did not receive
Godís promise. They died
believing something that did not come about.
What does this say to the Ultra Faith thinking that says you can
get everything you want from God if you
believe, and if you donít get these things, then you donít
verse ends with the acknowledgment that those who did not receive what was
promised lived as if they were aliens in this world.
The problem with western world Christians today is that they do not
live as though they are aliens in the world.
They are too much in love with the world to live this way, but like
Jesus, we should realize, and live as aliens because this world really is
not our home. So this is what
verse 15 means when the author says that those who live as aliens in the
world are looking for a place of their own.
That's a heavenly home that will eventually come down onto a new
earth as seen at the end of the book of Revelation.
15 speaks of men like Abraham who left his home to the land that God had
promised, and, when he, and they, got to that land, they still lived as
aliens. They could have
returned home. Of course that
would have been out of God's will. So,
they lived as aliens until the day, as verse 16 says, they would enter
their heavenly home.
verse 16 it says that these people "were longing for better
things." They did not
receive an earthly reward, but that did not bother them.
They were waiting for a far better reward, one they could not see,
one that would come to them in eternity.
The Greek word "orego" is the word that is translated as
"longing" in the NIV, or "desire" in the KJV.
It means to ďstretch out forĒ, or "to reach for."
So in a figurative way these people were reaching out for a better
17 through 19 continue to speak of Abraham.
God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac his only son, the son God
promised him that would carry on his lineage and turn Abraham's
descendents into a great nation.
God's command to Abraham was a test of faith.
Could Abraham actually obey God in this matter, especially when
Isaac was a promised miracle son? This
tells me that God can test us concerning the things He has promised us.
This also tells me that God's promises are not always immediately
realized in the present. They
are often tested before they are realized.
This is something that many Christians in the Pentecostal
Charismatic Movements sometimes miss in their theology.
we leave Abraham, we should understand that he was far from perfect.
It is only his trust in God that allowed God to declare him as
being righteous, and even his trust wavered.
Abraham left his homeland as God requested.
He had faith there, but Abraham did not go directly into
verse 20 it says that "by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau."
As Isaac prayed over his sons, he trusted His God to work out His will in
their lives, as hard as that might have been at the time. The
ironic thing is that there was trickery involved in this blessing.
Isaac was giving the all important blessing to the wrong son,
although he did not realize it because of his blindness, but I am sure
that he knew his sons and the things they could be up to at any given
time. I think this could have
easily required trust in God.
21 continues on by saying that Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph.
This is still another example how God works with very imperfect
people; Jacob understood the promises that God gave Abraham.
He understood that it was in his lineage that a great nation would
some day exist. Although Jacob
did not see the fulfillment of this promise, like Abraham, he trusted that
God's promises would some day be fulfilled.
From a Prophetic Futurist's viewpoint, these promises are yet to be
22 concerns Joseph and on his death bed told the story of how the Jews
verse 23 we see that the parents of Moses trusted in God as they hid there
son for three months after hearing of the king's decree to kill all the
young Hebrew children. They trusted that their God would look after them
as well as Moses. This verse tells us that Moses' parents were not afraid
of the king, but, even though they were not afraid of the king but trusted
God, they still hid Moses. This
tells me that doing all we can do as we trust God is necessary and does
not demonstrate a lack of faith as the Hyper Faith Movement would suggest.
Those of this movement might suggest that if Moses' parents had
real faith, they would not have hid him from the king.
Apparently the author of the book of Hebrews does not see it that
verse 24 we see that Moses chose to be associated with the people of God
rather than the King of Egypt's family.
In so doing he suffered persecution instead of living in pleasure.
Through all of this he trusted in Christ, as the author says.
He felt trusting in Christ was more important than living the easy
life. The writer continues to
say that this trust in God was evident as well when the Jews fled from
author tells us here that Moses trusted Christ.
Did he really trust Christ? Did
Moses know of Christ? Did he
know of a future Israeli Messiah who would be the Christ?
Just why the author says that Moses trusted Christ and not God
might be debatable. It might
well be that the author is putting a New Testament spin on this in order
to encourage his readers to not revert back to Old Testament Judaism.
western world knows little about Christian persecution, but that is in the
process of change. Little by
little, even in the West, Christians are beginning to suffer from an
anti-Christ culture. As time
goes on, we will have to have the same attitude that Moses had.
We will gladly suffer for the sake of Christ, as these Hebrew
believers were suffering, instead of caving into the world's demands on us
that would make life much easier.
the midst of fleeing from the kingís army, the children of
in verse 27 that Moses persevered because he saw the invisible God.
God is invisible to us as well, but, unlike Moses, New Testament
Christians have the Holy Spirit living within them.
We are in a much better place than Moses was in.
God is invisible to us, but we certainly
experience His reality in our lives.
28 tells us that by faith Moses obeyed God by keeping the Passover.
Just think of this. Moses
understood that the final judgment was about to drop on Egypt
and that the king was very angry at him and the Jews.
You might think that Moses might have wanted to run ahead of God
and leave the country instead of eating the Passover meal as commanded by
God, but he didn't. Now that
verse 29 speaks to the escape of the Jews from Egyptian domination and the
miracle that took place at the
verse 30 we see that the children of
verse 31 we see that even a prostitute who trusted in the God of Israel,
at least for a moment was spared destruction.
Many Bible teachers believe the Rahab mentioned in Matthew 1:5 in
the genealogy of Jesus is this Rahab.
If this is so, then her faith led her into the children of God
through marriage. That means
that a prostitute was in the lineage of Jesus.
How interesting that is.
verse 32 and following the writer of the book of Hebrews says that he
could go on in listing more examples of people of faith, but time and
space would not allow him to keeping adding more examples.
He says that these peopleís weaknesses were turned into strength
because they trusted in God. This
is one Biblical principle. We
are weak but God is strong. He
does and will use our weaknesses for His glory and to accomplish His will
in our lives and in the world. There
is no doubt about that. Of
course, we must first admit that we are weak, something in our positive
thinking, good confession Christian world, is seldom seen today.
We would rather do the opposite and boast ourselves up.
Yes, in Christ, we can be strong.
We can admit to that but far too often when we make that admission,
we're not building of Jesus but ourselves.
verse 35 it says that some men and women in Old Testament times were
tortured and killed. They
would rather die trusting God than to live and not trust Him.
You might ask, "Why would God allow someone to die as they
trusted Him?" Stephen in
the book of Acts is a prime example of this.
As Stephen passed from life into death, he trusted His Lord every
step of the way. Anyone who
dies in faith believes that there is something better for them in the next
life. That's why the author
speaks here of a better resurrection.
For the believer, life after death is far more wonderful
than this life.
36 continues on by saying that some of these people received floggings and
were put into prison. This
clearly shows that even though you trust in God, life is not always easy.
Western Christianity often suggests that if we have faith in Jesus,
things will go great for us. This
is not Biblical thinking.
list goes on concerning all the hardships that some of these people went
through. In verse 39 it says
that even though these people had great faith, they did not receive what
they were promised before they died. This
should tell us that we donít trust in Jesus for what we can get from
Him. We trust Him because He
is worthy of our trust, and thatís it.
These people will eventually get what was promised, because if God
promises something, He will bring it to pass.
that one of the persecutions listed was being sawed in half.
Rabbinical tradition states that the Old Testament prophet Isaiah
died in this fashion. It would
be a rough way to die.
writer closes the chapter by saying that these people in Old Testament
times did not receive what they trusted God for.
They would be made perfect, or complete. The word "us"
refers to New Testament believers. Therefore,
we are united with the people of Old Testament times through a common
faith. Our faith, or our trust
concerning salvation, which includes all of the Old Testament promises
spoken to Abraham, will be realized and when it is realized, it will
include both New and Old Testament believers.
Both groups are people of faith in the one and only true God in the
universe. For the New
Testament believer, our faith is based on more clarity than that of Old
Testament believers, but still, in the long run, both have faith in God,
and faith in God in what is important.
would suggest that the main theme of this chapter is that we must have
faith in God. We must trust
Him in whatever life brings our way, and, just because we have faith in
God does not mean will get what we want all of the time immediately after
we ask. Faith is tested
through time. It's that
last thing I will say about this chapter is that all these people that the
author commends for having great faith were ordinary people.
Yes, they were esteemed by the Jews, but all of them had their
faults. Therefore, even though
these people trusted God, their trust did waver at times, but that did not
nullify their faith and neither will it nullify the things God had